Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It’s not stupid to vote if you care for others

Hanging around with economists and risk analysts can discourage good citizenship as well as sloppy thinking. They keep telling us that each act of voting is pointless because it is almost of no consequence. If voting is merely for suckers then we’re free to stay home, being no less citizens and, maybe, just a touch busier than the drones.  Blogger Andrew Gelman of “The Monkey Cage” provides an intriguing rebuttal for Americans that is relevant to other large democracies:
“If your vote is decisive, it will make a difference for 300 million people. If you think your preferred candidate could bring the equivalent of a $50 improvement in the quality of life to the average American--not an implausible hope, given the size of the Federal budget and the impact of decisions in foreign policy, health, the courts, and other areas--you're now buying a $1.5 billion lottery ticket. With this payoff, a 1 in 10 million chance of being decisive isn't bad odds.”

This calculation is also available to pessimistic conservatives and nervous liberals.  Avoiding a threat to the broader community by voting against someone you fear is equally worth the odds. He goes on to conclude neatly:
"Indeed, when it comes to voting, it is irrational to be selfish, but if you care how others are affected, it's a smart calculation to cast your ballot, because the returns to voting are so high for everyone if you are decisive."
About 60 per cent of citizens persistently vote in national elections. They are more likely to have jobs and be as busy as those who don’t vote. We know also that they are more likely to have attained post-secondary degrees and probably are better compensated for their analytical abilities. So, not being stupid they must, at a conscious level, care for the interests of society as a whole.
It’s nice to know that when people say they voted for the general or national interest, not just for their personal benefit, they’re providing an argument that logically justifies their actions.

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